Annual Spring Bird Count

May 15, 2017 at 2:52 pm
By Alex Bynum

Bright and early on Saturday morning Carleton students and local birders will meet in the Arboretum to go on our annual bird count. We will split into groups and stop at many places in the Lower Arb where we will look and listen for birds. The birds will be tallied and compiled into a database that will be used by Arboretum staff to understand local bird populations as well as how the Arboretum works as a habitat for them.

Another method use to learn more about our bird populations was demonstrated by a veteran bird bander who came to Carleton to catch and band birds. Bird banding is a technique that allows us to see just how far birds are traveling; information that is sometimes vitally important.

The United States government funded many ornithological studies back when anthrax was first a big scare. They were trying to determine which islands were isolated enough that they could test the effects of anthrax without fearing that birds would bring it back to the mainland. It turns out that there really are no such islands, as birds are ubiquitous and can travel tremendous distances. Scientists learned a lot about migration patterns of different species through these studies.

Nowadays, however, there is a lot less funding for studying birds, and lots of the data that is collected comes from citizen scientists like us. The internet allows for quick submission of data to massive databases by thousands of people. Determining which birds we observe in the Arboretum isn’t just useful to us, but also will be used by other bird researchers to understand how bird populations and their distribution is changing over time.

-Alex Bynum ’18, for the Cole Student Naturalists

Editor’s note: Preliminary results from the bird count on Saturday May 13th show that 43 species were heard or seen in the Arboretum. Of special note were a Bald Eagle, and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Photo credits: Michelle Hodge '16

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